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Minnesota stay-at-home order to end May 18, bars and restaurants to reopen June 1

Gov. Tim Walz thanked Minnesotans for observing the stay-at-home order so far, saying those sacrifices had "saved thousands of lives."

Gov. Tim Walz thanked Minnesotans for observing the stay-at-home order so far, saying those sacrifices had "saved thousands of lives." Jim Mone, Associated Press

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday evening that the executive order calling on people to stay in their homes unless necessary will end as scheduled on May 18.

In an address livestreamed on YouTube, Walz thanked Minnesotans for taking steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, saying those sacrifices have "saved thousands of lives" already.

"That doesn't mean we're carefree and can return to the way things were," said Walz, who issued four new executive orders as part of his announcement. 

Walz extended his previously declared peacetime emergency order through June 12, and warned that additional restrictions—or roll-backs of new freedoms—could come in light of new developments. 

"This situation is fluid, and there's much we still don't know about this virus."

People are still encouraged to stay home, both socially and professionally, when possible. A new order replacing the stay-at-home ordinance calls for a limit on social gatherings to fewer than 10 people who don't live together.

"Don't get me wrong," Walz said, "we believe the safest place we can be is at home."

As one order says:

"This prohibition includes planned and spontaneous gatherings, public and private gatherings, and indoor and outdoor gatherings. Examples of prohibited gatherings include, but are not limited to, social, civic, community, faith-based, or leisure events, sporting or athletic events, performances, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, and festivals that bring together more than 10 people from more than one household."

The same order extends the ban on bars, restaurants, gyms, salons, and barbershops from in-house service through May 31, with a plan for how those businesses would reopen safely coming on May 20. 

The order encourages people who do go out to continue social distancing, and to use masks or some kind of face covering in "any public setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain," such as grocery stores or pharmacies. 

"Any worker who can work from home must do so," reads the order. 

Another order Walz published Wednesday protects employees from communicating their concerns about workplace safety regarding coronavirus, and protects them from retaliation for putting on "gloves, a cloth face covering, eye protection, or other protection." Employers, meanwhile, are allowed to require that employees wear specified protective equipment that "meets or exceeds" that obtained by employees.

Travel during this time should still be limited to what's "essential," Walz said.

Anyone who is "at risk of severe illness from COVID-19" is "strongly urged to stay at home." One order defines those at high risk as those 65 years or older and/or living in a nursing home, both of which have accounted for the vast majority of Minnesota's 638 coronavirus deaths through Tuesday. 

Walz said Minnesotans' "social and mental well-being" had factored into the decision. In an accompanying statement, Department of Health Commissioner Janet Malcolm said Minnesota is "still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic," and that the administration's goal is to "protect the most vulnerable Minnesotans while also learning how to live with this pandemic until a vaccine becomes widely available."